Sunday, April 15, 2007

Book Note: Esalen (Kripal); and The Serpent's Gift (Kripal)

Jeff Kripal, my colleague here in the Religious Studies Department at Rice just gave me a copy of his newest book, a history of Esalen and the human potential movement in America. The book is called Esalen: American and the Religion of No Religion. Here is an excerpt released on-line by the University of Chicago Press, his publisher. I thought a post on this "alternative" to traditional religion in contemporary society might be of some interest to those of us studying the "alternative" Christianities (and Judaisms) in antiquity.

I want to congratulate him on his outstanding (and beautiful) book, which I saw displayed front and center among the new hardback releases at Border's Books this evening when I was out book browsing with my son and husband. There is a three-page full layout of his book in the Chronicle of Higher Education Review this week (April 13, 2007) for those interested in a taste of what his new work is all about.

While I am mentioning this book, I might also mention that he just published a book on religious studies as a field of study, comparing what we do as scholars (both content-wise and methodology) with ancient gnosis and the gift that the serpent has to give. I truly loved this book, particularly the first and last chapters which made me really think about the study of religion in terms of the esoteric, the subversive, and the gnostic. We had the pleasure of reading this book a few weeks ago for the Reading Religion at Rice lunch group, and it was applauded around the table. Its name couldn't be any more appropriate - The Serpent's Gift.

So I think that double kudos are deserved!

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